Marussia have confirmed French rookie Jules Bianchi for their 2014 driver lineup.
This announcement comes on the eve of major regulation changes that could threaten the longevity of Marussia along with other struggling teams like Caterham and Sauber. However, Bianchi has been an asset to the team this whole season, often out-performing in an uncompetitive car and dominating his teammate.
Bianchi is a part of Ferrari’s Young Driver Academy and is tipped for a place at the Scuderia in the future. Marussia’s Ferrari engine deal for 2014 and beyond is closely connected with Bianchi’s ties with Ferrari, which could help propel the struggling team to the midfield.
In 2012, Bianchi spent the season on the sidelines, taking part in multiple Friday practice sessions as Force India‘s reserve driver. In this role, he developed skills that have helped him outperform his car on most occasions.
Jules was also runner-up in the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 championship, just losing out to former Sauber reserve driver Robin Frijns. Jules got a seat in Formula One largely thanks to his deep connections with both Ferrari and Force India.
This season, Jules has impressed everyone. While it is expected he will be in red overalls in the near future, Jules has made perfect use of his time at Marussia to gain valuable experience that will hopefully make the transition to a top team as smooth as possible. In the opening races of the season, when Marussia enjoyed a distinct performance advantage over rivals Caterham, Bianchi out-qualified his teammate often by over a second. It is these types of performances that have kept him on the radars of all the top teams.
2014 will be a difficult year for Marussia, though. More intense financial strains will be placed on the team in the form of more races, in-season testing and all-new car designs. Bianchi’s lack of sponsorship will not be a bonus for Marussia, but his talent speaks louder than any amount of cash ever can. Ferrari has done well to realize that.